As of midnight, the federal government shut down after Congress was unable to come to an agreement and pass a continuing resolution to keep it funded. After the House passed a slew of funding bills with amendments attached to delay and defund Obamacare, the lawmakers switched gears right before recessing for the evening and formally requested a budget conference with the Senate. A conference would mean convening a group of bipartisan lawmakers from both houses, or a conference committee, to work out a compromise between their competing visions for what a government budget should look like.
But House Republicans have had an opportunity to conference with the Senate since April. That’s when lawmakers in the Senate, led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), passed a budget and opened the door to create a committee to hash out the differences between that bill and the House budget, which it passed in March. Republicans had made the lack of a Democratic Senate budget a talking point for three years, arguing that Congress should return to “regular order” by passing budgets in both chambers and conferencing to work out the differences. Yet after the Senate passed a bill and the opportunity to do so became real, Senate Republicans blocked Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) from creating a conference committee.
In the months after that, those Republicans blocked 18 separate attempts to go to a budget conference with the House.
Republicans have offered a variety of excuses for not wanting to go to conference on the Senate Democratic budget bill. They have cited the need to work out rules, the requirement that a “framework” be worked out before heading into negotiations (which would likely be setting up a deal that cuts spending without raising any new revenue), and the demand that conferees be barred from addressing the need to raise the debt ceiling, which will need to be lifted in mid-October, claiming they are “preventing a back room deal to raise the debt limit.”
After they passed on the opportunity to proceed to regular order and a budget conference, Republicans began making demands in order to continue funding the government, starting with defunding the Affordable Care Act. That was just the latest in a series of demands the party has made in exchange for either keeping the government open and operational or raising the debt ceiling so that the country doesn’t default on its debt.
Reid immediately rejected the Republican request to go to conference on Monday night, saying, “We will not negotiate with a gun to our head.” And Republicans indicated that they are not actually seeking to compromise now. “House Republicans still desire to delay or defund or disband Obamacare and we’re going to stick to this effort,” House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) told Talking Points Memo.The government will remain shut down until a continuing resolution can be passed.